Category Archives: In the News

Marcus Pimpleton – KCTS 9 Golden Apple Award Winner

Marcus Pimpleton - Jazz ScholarsCongratulations Marcus!

Marcus Pimpleton is the music director of the Denny International Middle School, and the band director for Chief Stealth International High School, Seattle’s All-City Band, and Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra’s Jazz Scholars.

On Friday evening, at the Intiman Theatre ceremony, he became a recipient of the KCTS 9 Golden Apple Award for Educational Excellence, which have honored successful teaching models and programs among Washington state educators since 1992.

“In multiple positions—with middle school, high school and university students and the All-City Band—he builds bridges and creates innovative opportunities for his students to learn about life, leadership, volunteering and community through music and performance. In the classroom, Pimpleton saw many middle school students put down their instruments as they made the transition to high school. Aware of the link between music study and academic achievement, he pushed for a chance to teach both the middle- and high-school bands. In two years, the high-school band has doubled in size. He has also run music camps during school breaks and has seen retention rates increase. “The most powerful learning that takes place in my classes is not musical,” he says, “but the personal development that comes from students taking ownership.” KCTS 9

Marcus Pimpleton - Jazz ScholarsMarcus selects, directs and mentors the student musicians  for Jazz Scholars, SRJO’s school-partnered pilot program, providing jazz technique and instrumental music lessons for low-income and minority band students at Denny International Middle Scholl in southwest Seattle. “Marcus works very hard, has been crucial in developing the dynamic music program at Denny/Sealth, and is so deserving of this honor,” said Susan Jenkins, SRJO Board President and co-ordinator of the Jazz Scholars program.

Through its Jazz Scholars program, SRJO provides six professional instructors for weekly individual or group lessons in the six areas of band instrumentation, as well as assisting Marcus with sectional rehearsals for the entire band. We are extremely proud of his accomplishments, and pleased by his recognition.


SRJO Sinatra Concert on KPLU

For many, the golden age of popular song in America was in the middle of the last century when those songs were sung by Frank Sinatra.  This week Jim Wilke’s Jazz Northwest will revisit those songs on An Evening with Ol’ Blue Eyes – a concert by the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra with singers Danny Quintero and James Caddell.

Highlights from the concert will air Sunday, December 4 at 1 PM Pacific on Jazz Northwest on 88.5 KPLU, or online at

The songs include Come Fly with Me, The Second Time Around, The Song Is You, I Won’t Dance, I’ve Got You Under My Skin and many others.  Most of the arrangements come from two albums Frank Sinatra recorded with the Count Basie Orchestra in the mid 1960s.

Jim Wilke KPLUThis concert was recorded by Jim Wilke, November 6 at the Kirkland Performance Center as part of the 17th season of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, co-directed by Clarence Acox and Michael Brockman.

Jazz Northwest is produced exclusively for 88.5 KPLU by Jim Wilke. It is also available as a series of podcasts.

Straight Ahead Community

David Pierre-Louis

David Pierre-Louis | Photo by Robert Wade

Monday evening the Seattle jazz community gathered at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall Taper Auditorium for the first Inside/Out Jazz Awards, presented by Lucid. They were there to recognize and celebrate many of the city’s outstanding jazz performers, and to spread the rapidly emerging buzz emanating from the club live jazz on the Ave. The most recent manifestation of the vision of David Pierre-Louis, the founder of Lucid, the event was a benefit for Strength Through Unity, a Haitian assistance organization, also founded by Pierre-Louis.

His straight ahead approach to building jazz community, and rebuilding the neighborhoods of Turgeau, Haiti, are strikingly similar. He establishes goals on the move, involves people around him, makes things happen, and keeps on going. CBS News had to keep moving to cover his efforts to find his mother, after not being able to reach her for 36 hours after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on January 12 this year. He found her, and distributed the medical supplies he took with him. He came home and, with the help of the jazz community, raised money at Lucid, and went back again.

Clarence Acox Inside Out Award

Clarence Acox | Photo by Robert Wade

The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra’s own Clarence Acox, musician, bandleader, educator, and key member of Seattle’s jazz ecosystem, was honored with the first Inside/Out award for “Contribution to the Community”. Clarence, who also received the 2007 Mayor’s Arts Award, has been developing musicians and, in his own words, “good productive human beings, and positive factors in their communities and in their homes.” This wonderful video, produced by the Seattle Channel, tells more of the story.

Hadley Caliman

Hadley Caliman | photo Bruce C Moore

Also honored was SRJO tenor player Hadley Caliman, also an educator, with the award for “Straight Ahead Album of the Year”, for his January release on Origin Records, Straight Ahead, which held a Top 10 spot in the Jazz Week Charts for 10 weeks, ranking as high a #2. The album has remained in the Top 50 for 17 weeks.

To wrap up this week in which David Pierre-Louis launched the Inside/Out Awards to celebrated both the Seattle jazz community and his return to his mother’s home in Haiti, Hadley will reconnect with a former community of his own with a Sunday evening gig at the historic Monticello Hotel Ballroom in Longview, WA, just about 30 miles up the Columbia River from Cathlamet, the town and times he remembered with a track from his award winning album “Straight Ahead”.

Here’s a complete list of recipients of the first Inside/Out Awards:

Check out more of Robert Wade’s photos from the show.

Were you at the I/O awards show? We’d love to hear more about it. And if you make Hadley’s show in Longview, let us know how he blows.

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“It never gets old.”

Clarence Acox SRJO

SRJO co-founder and Artistic Director Clarence Acox | photo by Bruce C Moore

“”The kids feel great. The parents feel great. It’s a lot of work. A lot of hard work. A lot of effort put into it. We’re just enjoying the moment. It never gets old.” That’s Clarence Acox sharing his feelings with KPLU’s Florangela Davila last night in NY City. Earlier in the evening, Acox and his hard working Garfield High School jazz band were named first place winners of the 15th Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival. Listen to more of the excitement in Florangela’s full report.

As Hugo Kugiya reports for the Seattle Times, this unprecedented 4th win was achieved in what was, perhaps the strongest field of bands in the event’s history. He quotes Clarence, “”What I’m most proud of is the time and effort the kids took upon themselves to do what it took to win.” Several Garfield musicians were recognized as outstanding soloists, including lead trumpeter, senior Riley Mulherkar, named the “outstanding soloist” of the three-day festival. Read Hugo’s coverage here.

Justifiably proud of their neighborhood High School The Central District news has a complete list of Garfield’s award winning soloists, as well as a few hot video clips of the band rehearsing “The Shepherd”, the song on which trumpeter Mulherkar shared soloing honors with festival director Wynton Marsalis.

Wynton’s web site has a complete list of winners for the competition & festival, including bands, sections, soloists, and the Essentially Ellington writing contest, in which students from all participating high schools to submit an essay or short story based on themes relating to this year’s EE repertoire. Photographs and recordings from this years festival will be available on the Jazz at Lincoln Center web site in coming weeks.

Our congratulations to Clarence and his band on their victory, and to Scott Brown and his Roosevelt High School Jazz Band on their outstanding performance and honorable mention. Thanks for keeping jazz alive.

UPDATE 05/13/10: Seattle Times Opinion – Essentially Ellington: essentially passion an hard work

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The School of Jazz is in session.

KPLU school of jazz 5 coverWashington is known nationally for its wealth of middle and high school jazz programs. Hundreds of talented and dedicated teenagers make up more than a dozen outstanding big bands, from Olympia to Bellingham. At the forefront of this rich jazz movement, KPLU 88.5 FM has been dedicated to continuing support of music education through the KPLU School of Jazz Project.

The program, supported by a grant from The Boeing Company, provides professional jazz mentors to a dozen schools, helps develop an audience for jazz through it’s inclusive programming efforts, and produces a series of KPLU School of Jazz CD’s, featuring performances by the schools and their mentors.

Last month, the program received a My Source Education Innovation Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, D.C. as well as additional funding to support the program. And, they released Volume 5 of the School of Jazz CD series, which has raised nearly $50,000 since its launch.

Clarence Acox SRJO Garfield High School

Clarence Acox

Seattle is considered by many to be the hotbed of the scene, and many of the musicians in the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra are deeply involved as bandleaders, educators, clinicians, and mentors.

Drummer and co-artistic director Clarence Acox, and trombonists Scott Brown and David Bentley direct the programs at Garfield, Roosevelt, and Mercer Island High Schools, respectively. Trombonist David Marriott, trumpeter Thomas Marriott, and saxophonist Mark Taylor are mentors in the School of Jazz program.

David Bentley SRJO Mercer Island High School

David Bentley

Multi-media producers Florangela Davila and Glenn Nelson produced this video featuring Thomas Marriott working with David Bentley and the Mercer Island High School jazz band. Florangela explains:

“We wanted to profile the School of Jazz program and our approach was to highlight one mentor at one school. We were lucky enough to get access to Thomas, David and the student musicians at Mercer Island High. We wanted to highlight the mentoring relationship as well as the professionalism and dedication of the students. We hope the video gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the work — and the “fun — that went into preparing for the SOJ recording session.”

Scott Brown SRJO Roosevelt High School

Scott Brown

More recently, Ms. Davila produced Artscape | Roosevelt vs. Garfield: Cross-town Jazz Music Rivals , a piece about the respectful competition between the programs directed by Scott Brown and Clarence Acox. In the fifteen year history of the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival, Clarence and Scott are the only directors to lead their programs to four first place wins. And they return as finalists this year. Listen (transcript and audio) to the Artscape program to get a feel for the purpose they share.

Track down KPLU School of Jazz Volume 5 to hear all the participating schools, and their mentors, representing the great state of jazz in the State of Washington. And, if you know about a program, or a jazz education story we should hear, share it here.

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Riffing on Repertory

Doug Ramsey

Earlier this year Doug Ramsey, recipient of the lifetime achievement award of the Jazz Journalists Association and author of the highly regarded ArtsJournal jazz blog Rifftides, encouraged his readers to check out the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra’s March main stage concert, SRJO Plays Big Band Monk & Mingus. Here’s an excerpt, in Doug’s words:

“If you live in or near Seattle or find yourself in the neighborhood and haven’t heard the SRJO, this would be a fine opportunity to get to know an impressive collection of musicians.”

This prompted prolific jazz blogger Chris Rich of Brilliant Corners, A Boston Jazz Blog to share his perspective on repertory jazz in Seattle, where he once lived and enjoyed the jazz scene. Here’s an excerpt from Chris’ comment:

“To cut to the chase and return to the point. Yes.. If reportorial renditions have a shot at vitality, Seattle is a better place to look than Lincoln Center. Thank you for this..Clarence Acox… oh my.”

Michael Brockman conducts SRJO

Michael Brockman conducting SRJO

Composer, arranger, bandleader Michael Brockman, along with Clarence Acox, is the co-artistic director of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra. This Rifftide’s exchange prompted him to talk about their collective approach to SRJO’s place in the repertory jazz movement. Michael’s comments are shown here in their entirety. The complete exchange on Rifftides is here.

Hi Chris,

I hope you don’t mind my responding with some thoughts that came to me in the past week as the result of an interview I had with a journalist from NYC followed immediately by some new music/cutting edge jazz concerts held here in Seattle.

The SRJO is trying to do things in a unique way, and through this, we hope to place our own stamp on “the repertory jazz movement” and portray what that means here in the Seattle jazz scene.

One major factor is that we try to feature the leading jazz soloists that our city has to offer (at least, those who are INTO playing in a large ensemble–many great players are not). Featuring these highly visibility players is not easy to do, because they need to be given plenty of room to stretch out. This means that solos are extended well beyond what is traditional in big bands–and we do this because improvisation MUST be kept as the central focus of any jazz performance. And no player is restricted to play in a particular style–each is set loose to present a new, fresh statement with every solo.

That said, we spend a lot of our rehearsal time on encouraging/allowing the players to be vibrant and expressive, rather than providing a perfectly polished reproduction of a classic work. Our renditions contain occasional errors, but they are never without vitality.

Also, we are always trying to broaden what we present to our audiences as the “great repertoire” of jazz. While most of our fans came to us to hear classic works by Ellington and Basie, we have (over the past 15 years) introduced them to many, many other great composers. Our March 2010 Monk & Mingus concerts turned away audience at the door. Go figure! We are trying to present music from the entire 100-year history of jazz, including newly composed things that are perfectly worthy of being considered important repertoire.

My pal Clarence & I are evangelical about this repertory jazz stuff, and we are trying to be part of what draws more and more people to the music–in ALL its forms.

-michael brockman

What’s your take on repertory jazz? From New York City to the Pacific Northwest, there’s a lot of territory, and music to cover. Join the conversation.

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Essentially Ellington: essential education

Since its creation in the 1995-96 school year, the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program has reached more than 300,000 students in more than 3,000 high schools. The program touches all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Australia, and American schools abroad, and has provided more than 90,000 copies of 86 previous unavailable jazz orchestra scores.

Garfield High School Jazz band Essentially Ellington

Photo by Frank Stewart for JALC

This year alone, in preparation for the 15th Annual Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival, more than 9,600 newly transcribed scores and reference recordings have been provided to high school bands in the U.S., Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. (Learn more – Press Release PDF)

Clarence Acox with SRJO

Clarence Acox with SRJO

Few programs have benefitted more than, or accomplished as much as Seattle’s Garfield and Roosevelt High School’s jazz bands, directed by SRJO co-artistic director and drummer Clarence Acox, and trombonist Scott Brown, respectively. Under their inspired leadership, the outstanding young musicians, as well as those from other Washington schools such as South Whidbey and Mountlake Terrace, have been dominant forces in the annual competition. The roots of their programs date back to the 1960’s when Waldo King first established jazz programs at Seattle’s Garfield, Roosevelt, and Franklin high schools. (Graphic: How it grew PDF)

Scott Brown and Roosevelt High School Jazz Band

Photo by Frank Stewart for JALC

About a month from now, Garfield and Roosevelt, along with Edmonds-Woodway, will be representing Washington, once again. The preparation is well underway. The repertoire is selected, with tunes spanning the period from 1936 with Mary Lou Williams Walkin’ and Swingin’ to 1967 with her fast and furious blues, New Musical Express, written with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra in mind, honoring her in her centennial year. And there’s plenty of Ellington and Strayhorn between.

To clearly communicate expectations, and help every member of participating bands nail the music, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Music Director Wynton Marsalis and the band have produced more than three hours of rehearsal videos, addressing every player’s part, in every section, of each song in the repertoire. Watch to get a sense of what it takes to get ready.

Scott Brown with SRJO: photo by Bruce C Moore

Scott Brown with SRJO

The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra is dedicated to the preservation and enrichment of this uniquely American art form. We are fortunate to have many professional musicians, music educators, and supporting volunteers participating in initiatives to educate and inspire the next generation to understand, perform, and treasure this music. While Essentially Ellington is the most visible national effort, the day-in day-out efforts of Scott and Clarence, and many other members of the band, make this all possible.

Learn (and listen to) more:

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